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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15

Nostradamus Kid

An Australian romantic comedy starring Flirting's Noah Taylor as a boy who's convinced the end of the world is coming, first in 1956 and then in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis; Bob Ellis directed. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

The Inheritance

A comedy from the Czech Republic by Vera Chytilova (Daisies, The Apple Game) about a village drunk who, after the collapse of communism and the restitution of private property, discovers that he suddenly owns a brickyard, a deluxe hotel, and several shops, among other things. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Young Werther

Inspired by rather than based on Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, this French feature focuses on teenage alienation, as a young man tries to discover why his 14-year-old friend committed suicide; directed by Jacques Doillon (Le petit criminel and La pirate). (Music Box, 5:00)

Wild East

Made during the final days of the Soviet Union, this feature from Kazakhstan by Rachid Nougmanov (Needle) is a contemporary story about a group of midgets who, when civil war breaks out, escape to the remote mountains of Tien Shan, they're threatened by a gang demanding extortion money. (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

*Lillian

David Williams's acute, transcendent study of the selflessness of a real woman--Lillian Foley, a 57-year-old southern black woman--has an unadorned, heartfelt purity. The film's fierce naturalism suggests documentary: the story develops from incidents and details in Foley's fife. Yet the balance of the cast is composed of actors, and the scenes they play veer from fully thought out to elaborate improvisation as they detail Lillian's personal sacrifices caring for the invisible (neglected children) and the forgotten (the elderly poor). It's a film about discoveries and small, almost incidental pleasures that, strung together, carry tremendous power. It isn't visually daring, though cinematographer Robert Griffith has a keen sense of how to light faces and individualize characters. Every scene carries a charge of truth and surprise, creating a portrait that's neither sentimental nor simple. (PZM) (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

*Calendar

Canada's fine young filmmaker Atom Egoyan, who's only 31, has had retrospectives of his work in France and Germany and cover stories in serious film magazines. But in the United States his films have yet to take hold; his work--Family Viewing, Speaking Parts, The Adjuster--seems too cool and cerebral even for art-house audiences. Egoyan's breakthrough could be Calendar, a touching, emotional tale of love gone awry, with bittersweet comedy moments akin to those in Annie Hall and Manhattan. Egoyan cast himself as a passive still photographer on assignment in Armenia who loses his fiery girlfriend (Egoyan's offscreen wife, the talented Arsinee Khanjian) to their earthy Armenian guide. Egoyan's photographer returns home alone to Toronto, where he suffers and suffers--comically. (GP) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

The Escorts

Of the spate of new films, some made for television, on Sicilian judges and cops who've been murdered for opposing the Mafia, Ricky Tognazzi's tense drama is by far the best. It doesn't offer much insight or depth of emotion, but as a briskly paced political thriller it's highly entertaining. The plot concerns four bodyguards of disparate backgrounds bonding to one another as they risk their lives to protect a magistrate investigating the Mafia assassination of a state attorney. The story of the investigation alternates with subplots about the private lives, of the cops--each racked by guilt, family pressures, and the fear of death. The locations in and around Palermo are rendered with surprising feeling, adding a rich sense of place to a film that's somewhat generic. (Scharres) (Music Box, 7:00)

The Pros and Cons of Breathing

An independent feature by Chicagoan Robert Munic, shot in ten days for $70,000, about anomie among four young men. (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Manhattan by Numbers

Downtown Manhattan, especially the Lower East Side--with its mixture of small businessmen, truck drivers, homeless people, winos, ambitious aspiring artists, drug addicts, musicians, recent immigrants, drag queens, survivors from the Beat generation, and other colorful figures--has often been a convenient backdrop for the filmmaking fantasies of displaced directors. There's nothing wrong with that, but things sour when the backdrop is only a lifeless piece of decor. That's what happens in Manhattan by Numbers. Amir Naderi (The Runner; Water, Wind, Sand--both splendid films shot in his native Iran) has lived in New York since 1986, and from what can be guessed about cultural life in Iran one can hardly blame him. But his study of modern-day alienation in New York wears very thin. It tries to be "outrageous," like a bad European cartoon about how dangerous New York is, and after a while you couldn't care less whether George Murphy gets his 1,200 bucks or finds his long-lost friend Tom Ryan. Reducing the life of marginalized New Yorkers to a series of cameos in which they can't do anything but play alienated caricatures of themselves is very close to misrepresentation, that is, racism. (BR) (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

*Farewell, My Concubine

Chen Kaige's Farewell, My Concubine, which has been called the Chinese Gone With the Wind, is an intelligent film concerned with complex issues of human behavior, artistic values, and historical interpretation; it is also absolutely accessible and richly entertaining. A film of epic sweep, portraying the turbulent period of Chinese history between 1925 and 1977, it is also an intimate, passionate, sensitive love story focused on the full-throated emotions of three intense, tempestuous characters. At the beginning of the film Beijing is in the hands of warlords. The Kuomintang can do little to control them, and life is chaotic--except for the Peking Opera and its beloved stars. Two boys, best friends, are placed in training at the opera school, one destined to play female roles, the other male roles. Douzi at first resists a love affair with Shitou, who's effective in heroic masculine roles but has neither the imagination nor the artistic drive of Douzi. As adults they become major stars in an opera called Farewell, My Concubine, set in 200 BC, in which the faithful concubine dies for her king. The opera becomes the center of Douzi's life, and he expects his onstage devotion to be returned by Shitou offstage as well. Shitou, however, never understands the vital connection that's necessary for their emotional health and survival as men and as artists. He marries a prostitute who shares Douzi's love for Shitou but isn't capable of understanding the importance of the opera. The rest of their story is full of jealousy, betrayal, and sacrifice, as they're swept up in the upheavals of the world outside the opera, where betrayal and sacrifice are the order of the day. The three principal actors are faultless, but Leslie Cheung walks away with the film. (DO) (Pipers Alley, 7:30)

Bird of Happiness

Pilar Miro's Spanish feature focuses on a well-to-do art restorer who, after a traumatic day with her son, her lover, and a group of hooligans, decides to start her life anew. (Pipers Alley, 9: 00)

*Don't Call Me Frankie

A pleasing little film by Thomas Fucci about a despondent man named Frank (Peter Van Norden) who checks into a transient hotel, armed with a gun and a tape of favorite selections from the more than 11,000 records in his collection, with the sole intention of ending his miserable life. Pulling the trigger becomes problematic, however, when his neighbors repeatedly intrude in the most bizarre ways. Stylistically the film resembles some of David Lynch's earlier work, and the deadpan delivery treads on Jim Jarmusch territory, but Fucci displays little of the contempt Lynch has for his characters. Once the film moves out onto the open road, Fucci establishes his own distinctive style, which, coupled with Van Norden's charming performance, makes the film a success. Some viewers may have qualms about shelling out seven bucks for a movie that runs barely more than an hour, but it's likely to be more entertaining than most other American independents showing this year. Besides, any film that can blend such an eclectic sound track--everything from Abbey Lincoln and traditional Indian music to selections from Puccini's Manon Lacaut--this delightfully and effortlessly is worth seeing. (RP) (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

The Punk

Director Mike Same made his debut with one of film's all-time stinkers, Myra Breckinridge, Gore Vidal's comic transsexual novel camped up and brought to its knees, with woeful screen appearances by Rex Reed, a mummified Mae West, and Raquel Welch. Same took 23 years to recover; The Punk is his second directorial effort. It would be splendid to report a masterpiece, but The Punk is a dull, middlebrow, Romeo and Juliet-like story: a disaffected London youth falls for a young actress, and they try to make a go of it in the drug-ridden Notting Hill Gate area of London. Blame Same for the old-fashioned, tame direction and the bland casting. (GP) (Music Box, 9:00)

Thieves Quartet

"There will be four of us, so musically speaking it's a quartet," explains the ringleader of this made-in-Chicago kidnapping caper. Phillip Van Lear plays the black good guy among the white bad guys, a one-time basketball champ accused of throwing a game. Michele Cole plays the bleached blond in black leather and Joe Guastaferro the ringleader, who picks one of his partners in crime--an ex-hippie who was busted at the '68 convention, played by James Eichling--by his idiosyncratic taste in Miles Davis albums. The four rub one another all the wrong ways until rubbing one another out. A lot of their lines are too stagy, but this is still a laudable first feature. Writer and director Joe Chappelle got a masters in filmmaking at Northwestern and now produces TV spots for clients such as McDonald's. Cinematographer Greg Littlewood, who may be guilty of overusing ultrawide-angle lenses, does justice to the city with his picture-perfect locations and chase-scene routes. (Stamets) (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

SATURDAY OCTOBER 16

Shorts Program #4

Karen Kelly's The Winding Sheet, Robert Schmidt's Saturn, Brian Sloan's Pool Days, Peter M. Kershaw's Begin and Cease, and David Yates's Good Looks. (Music Box, 2:00),

Bird of Happiness

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 3:00)

*The Blue Kite

Director Tian Zhuangzhuang is no stranger to controversy. Two of his previous films, On the Hunting Ground (1985) and The Horse Thief (1986), were held back from export by Chinese authorities who thought they weren't politically correct. The Blue Kite was nearly finished in 1991, when several officials who saw it decided it had problems in its politcal "leanings." Postproduction workstopped, and the film had to be completed outside official channels. The story is of one Chinese family's experiences during the political changes and social upheavals of the 50s and 60s. It's told through the eyes of a young boy, played by three actors as an infant, a child, and a teenager. His mother marries three times, each marriage leading to disaster, and the extended family, neighbors, and landladies add their own joys and agonies. All of the film's events and characters are based on Tian's own memories or those of his friends, and he's careful to root the drama in a proper historical context. The film is visually exquisite, its emotions true. As the members of the "fifth generation" continue to tell their own stories, we can begin to grasp the reality of China's history. (DO) (Pipers Alley, 3:00)

Floundering

Set against the hallucinatory backdrop of postriot Los Angeles, producer Peter McCarthy's first feature film as a director is a quirky comedy about an out-of-work 30-year-old (James Le Gros) who's suffering from insomnia and a major existential crisis. When he's not out looking for work or listening to deadbeat friends explain the meaning of life to him, he's obsessing about the cause of the riots and fantasizing about bumping off the Daryl Gates-like police chief who seems to taunt him from his television set. The alternately bleak and surreal tones of the film blend more successfully than the characters, who waver between the realistic and the one-dimensional. The film also veers off on some: pretentious tangents at times, particularly during Le Gros's monologues. Yet on the whole Floundering: is an amusing and engaging piece of work. (RP) (Pipers Alley, 3:15)

Thieves Quartet

See listing under Friday, October 15 (Pipers Alley, 3:15)

Origins of Film

An illustrated lecture by the French film museum's Glen Myrent about the prehistory of cinema, beginning with 11th-century Chinese shadow puppets and continuing through various 19th-century inventions. He will also discuss the 75-millimeter camera presented at the 1900 World's Fair and the praxinoscope and cartoon projections used for Emile Reynaud's theatre optique in the late 19th century. Reynaud's 1894 Around a Cabin and footage by Lumiere cameramen working in the U.S. in 1896 will be screened. (Music Box, 4:30)

Nostradamus Kid

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

The Case of Maria Soledad

The year is 1990. In the Argentinean province of Catamarca a local teenager is raped and murdered, her body mutilated. The crime appears to be an act of random violence, but is it? Based on a true story, The Case of Maria Soledad goes beyond the mystery genre to hold the political elite responsible for Argentina's pervasive corruption and atmosphere of terror. After the initial investigation of the murder implicates several youngsters from prominent local families, the police purposely begin to drag their feet, violating every principle of fairness and justice along the way. Only an extraordinary effort on the part of the local citizens, especially the victim's classmates, keeps the investigation going. If this story sounds familiar, it should. Over the past decade quite a few Argentinean films (e.g., The Official Story) have been made on this and related subjects--and most have been more persuasive. Though well-documented, The Case of Maria Soledad maintains its focus on the issue of social injustice, subordinating all dramatic and stylistic considerations. Accordingly, most of the film's characters (the good nun, the frightened classmate) come across as more archetypal than real; the use of flashbacks is predictable and choppy; and many of the damning allegations go unsubstantiated. It becomes evident that something is wrong in Argentina, but exactly what is far from clear, especially given that the investigation isn't faring any better today under the new, democratic government. This could have been an emotionally haunting suspense film or a sharp documentary. Instead it's merely good intentions translated into pedestrian cinema. (ZB) (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

*From the East

Chantal Akerman's haunting masterpiece is a documentary without commentary or dialogue about her several-months-long trip from east Germany to Moscow--a tough and formally rigorous inventory of what the former Soviet bloc looks and feels like today. Her painterly penchant for finding Edward Hopper wherever she goes has never been more obvious; this travelogue seemingly offers vistas any alert tourist could find, yet delivers a series of indelible images and sounds that are impossible to shake later. After two and a half trips through this movie, I recall most the countless tracking shots, the sense of people forever waiting, the rare occurrence of a plaintive offscreen violin over an otherwise densely ambient sound track, static glimpses of roadside sites and domestic interiors, the periphery of an outdoor rock concert, a heavy Moscow snowfall, a crowded terminal where weary people and baggage are huddled together like so many dropped handkerchiefs. The only other film I know that imparts such a vivid sense of being somewhere is the Egyptian section of Straub-Huillet's Too Early, Too Late. Akerman's sorrowful, intractable film reportedly drove out all but five viewers at the Toronto festival press show, but the ordinary festival audiences I saw it I with in that city and in Locarno were a hardier bunch. Everyone goes to movies in search of events, but the extraordinary events in this movie are the shots themselves--the everyday recorded by a powerful artist with an acute eye and ear. (JR) (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

In the Name of Christ

Winner of the grand prize at the last Ouagadougou film festival, Roger Gnoan M'Bala's In the Name of Christ may not be the best African movie of the last two years, but it's a very engrossing film, tackling a fascinating cultural issue: the hybrid religious practices that sprang up in Africa after decolonization, which mixed Catholicism, traditional religion, Islam, and everything else that could be found, imported, and assimilated. A film about spiritual displacement, it was shot in a small Ivory Coast village, and the dialogue is in French, the language of "modernity," the international market, and postcolonial alienation. A drunken swineherd, an object of ridicule in the village, imagines that Christ appears to him and orders him to found a new religion. But "Magloire the First" is no shrewd televangelist: the strength of his inner conviction is such that he's capable of inflicting and curing blindness and saving a young madwoman who was raped by a sorcerer. Superbly acted, the film subtly explores the relationship between Magloire, his concubines, and his followers, until his own demons make him the victim of the illusion of power and spirituality he created. (BR) (Pipers Alley, 5:30)

The Trial

Written by Harold Pinter, British filmmaker David Jones's too literal adaptation of Kafka's remarkable text beautifully preserves the plot without reimagining or interpreting the material in an innovative way. It's handsomely made but emotionally distant, easy to admire but impossible to enjoy. Orson Welles's 1963 version, a work that has grown immeasurably over time, subtly uses Joseph K's Jewishness to help convey the social disconnection and psychological terror he feels; his film becomes a brutal allegory about the Holocaust (Kafka died in 1924; his three sisters were killed in Nazi concentration camps). By contrast, the Jones-Pinter version skims along the surface, offering virtually no subtext. Joseph K (Kyle MacLachlan), a respected, anonymous banker, is detained by the authorities on the morning of his 30th birthday, though no formal charges are recorded. His bid to clear his name sends him through a nightmarish maze of inept bureaucrats, seductive, devilish women, and ineffectual magistrates, until an encounter with a priest (Anthony Hopkins) leads him to accept his fate. The film is most impressive as a stylistic exercise. Working with the gifted cinematographer Phil Meheux, Jones uses the Baroque architecture of Prague to sinister effect; his use of a cell that turns into a vast hall at K's initial inquisition is particularly impressive. But the film is finally too inert, too withdrawn; it chokes the life and mystery out of the material. (PZM) (Music Box, 7:00)

Our Twisted Hero

In this political allegory set in the world of a fifth-grade classroom in Korea, the young students are intimidated by a classroom bully. Little works to change the oppressive atmosphere until the arrival of a young, revolutionary-minded teacher. Intended to serve as a commentary on Korea's history of foreign occupation, coups, and dictatorial regimes, the film also rings true as a depiction of the claustrophobic world of childhood, where isolation, peer pressure, and acts of gratuitous violence bordering on sadism mark the boundaries of the known world. Set in the late 1950s and told in flashback, the story raises questions about moral consciousness, about how individuals choose between becoming tyrants, their loyal followers, and rebels. As such it is not simply a reflection of Korea's past, but also a reminder of the course of 20th-century history and a meditation on the uses and abuses of political power. (PE) (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Killing Grandpa

Grandpa is a wealthy old engineer who's lost his will to live. When he slips into a coma after a failed suicide attempt, his greedy son and daughter-in-law arrange to sell a large portion of his estate to land developers, expecting that he'll die at any moment. But a loyal servant secretly hires a beautiful young witch in hopes she can revive him and foil the children's plot. This Argentinean film is an attempt at magic realism, but it falls flat, mainly because director Luis Cesar D'Angiolillo seems content to give us caricatures rather than characters with some emotional depth. He does display some nice visual and poetic flair toward the end, but the whimsical charm the film strives for is marred by the unpleasant nature of its characters. (RP) (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Clean, Shaven

A schizophrenic returns to his hometown looking for his daughter in this U.S. independent feature by newcomer Lodge Kerrigan. (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Travolta and Me

This featurette--the sixth in the French television series "All the Boys and Girls of Their Age," for which various filmmakers have been asked to re-create their teenage years--so impressed the jury at the Locarno film festival that it received the Bronze Leopard. Patricia Mazuy revealed her original talent in the 1989 feature Peaux de vaches, which explored the emotional violence of a man, his wife, and his brother living in a no-exit situation in rural France. Travolta and Me--which takes place in 1978, when Mazuy was 18--stages a similar kind of violence, that of a first sexual passion among bored teenagers in a small town. Mazuy is particularly brilliant when unfolding the vagaries of desire in a young girl who passes from a puppy-love infatuation with John Travolta to a serious crush, while her Nietzschean, self-destructive partner remains more or less a cipher until his final harrowing, unexpected act of defiance. The film maintains a metaphorical opposition between the burning passion of the heroine (and the arson she triggers) and the ice of the skating rink in the film's last sequence, a symbol of the inanity of a certain youth culture but also of the fact that, as Fassbinder once said, "love is colder than death." With this film Mazuy again asserts that she's a true auteur. (BR) (Pipers Alley, 7:30)

*Don't Call Me Frankie

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

The Lotus Eaters

Coming-of-age stories, in which rebellion and growth are catalyzed by a charismatic outsider, seem to be a staple of all national cinemas. This quintessentially Canadian version of a familiar tale adds nothing new to the genre, but it's so, well, nice. The restless spirit of the 60s finally arrives on one of the islands off British Columbia in 1964, embodied in the shapely form of Miss Andrews, a young schoolteacher from Montreal whose ideas about education, authority, and love collide with the orderly existence of the Kingswood family. While mostly comic, the story broaches serious issues and provides a realistic treatment of the repercussions of infidelity. Director Paul Shapiro stresses the charm of the islanders' fabled eccentricities and draws admirably modulated performances from both child and adult actors. (AS) (Pipers Alley, 9:30)

The Punk

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 9:30)

Gorilla Bathes at Noon

The best-known Yugoslavian director--when there was a Yugoslavia--Dusan Makavejev has been making films around the world for the last decade and a half that never quite match his exhilarating Belgrade-produced classics from the 60s and 70s, including the tart, dazzling collages of fictional narrative, found documentary, kitsch, and Brechtian interludes Man Is Not a Bird and WR: Mysteries of the Organism. Gorilla Bathes at Noon, though no breakthrough, is still a modest step for Makavejev in connecting with politics and cultural criticism again. A Soviet officer (Svetozar Cvetkovic) remains in Berlin after the wall falls, wandering about trying to make sense of a post-Marx world. He's there when the Lenin memorial comes down (a real-life documentary moment). It can't be denied: Makavejev, the most brazenly anti-Stalinist of Eastern European directors, is waxing a bit nostalgic for the commie days. (GP) (Pipers Alley, 9:30)

Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer

This disturbing documentary by English filmmaker Nick Broomfield is a dark rumination on American culture, focused on a 35-year-old prostitute who was convicted of killing seven men in 1990 and 1991, dubbed the first female serial killer by federal authorities. It's an undeniably gripping work, but Broomfield is less concerned with Wuornos's motivations and guilt than with the attendant sideshow: corrupt cops, venal lawyers, and a duplicitous born-again couple claiming to be Wuornos's surrogate parents--all trying to extract money from the filmmakers. Broomfield skillfully reveals the police misconduct: Tyria Moore, Wuornos's lover, is inexplicably never charged, despite clear evidence linking her to two of the killings; a month before Wuornos was arrested the sheriff's top administrators were covertly negotiating deals with Hollywood producers; and the investigator who broke open the case was demoted and eventually forced out because he criticized his superiors. The second half of Aileen Wuornos details Broomfield's unsuccessful attempts to secure a long-planned interview with Wuornos. The film isn't formally innovative, though it is unflinching; Wuornos's harrowing testimony about being sexually tortured by one of the men before she killed him is heartbreaking. Broomfield is too easily sidetracked--by, for instance, a man blowing himself up at a kinky leather bar--yet his moral outrage and disgust at all the shady characters involved emerges in every frame. His film is both repellent and intriguing. (PZM) (Music Box, 9:30)

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 17

The Escorts

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 3:00)

Gorilla Bathes at Noon

See listing under Saturday, October 16. (Pipers Alley, 3:00)

Francois Truffaut, Stolen Portraits

Hyperbolically billed at the Cannes film festival as "inaugurating a new cinematic genre, the essay on an auteur," this homage to Francois Truffaut is really little more than the garden-variety talking-heads genre that has become standard for television documentaries. Nevertheless, this film by Serge Toubiana (a former editor in chief of Cahiers du Cinema, where Truffaut the powerful critic first came into his own in the late 5Os) and Michel Pascal is well put together and always entertaining, and the clips from Truffaut's films are a delight. Crafted with love and admiration, it offers several new insights into the personal life of the director, including a fascinating revelation about his father made by French director Bertrand Tavernier. A must-see for Truffaut fanatics. (PB) (Music Box, 3:00)

The Case of Maria Soledad

See listing under Saturday, October 16. (Pipers Alley, 3:15)

Clean, Shaven

See listing under Saturday, October 16. (Pipers Alley, 3:15)

Lara: My Life With Boris Pasternak

Reminiscences of the famous Russian poet and novelist by his widow Olga Ivinskaya, now living in a small apartment in Moscow, form the core of this German documentary by Juraj Herz; also featured are 1960s home movies shot by Pasternak's daughter and other archival materials. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Manhattan by Numbers

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

*Farewell, My Concubine

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Music Box, 5:00)

*The Women From the Lake of Scented Souls

Xie Fei's feature, which shared the Golden Bear grand prize this year at Berlin with The Wedding Banquet, is a haunting feminist tale from mainland China about a hardworking, enterprising village woman who becomes suddenly rich when a Japanese entrepreneur (also a woman) buys into her sesame-oil mill. But all is not perfect. The village woman is enmeshed in an adulterous affair and has a retarded adult son to deal with. The son is married off to a poor village girl, who soon finds herself victimized by him as he paws and claws at her body trying to make love. The girl's tragedy comes to dominate the film, and women's suffering is treated as sympathetically and as elegiacally as in the classic Japanese films of Mizoguchi. (GP) (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

Our Twisted Hero

See listing under Saturday, October 16. (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

Remote Control

Oskar Jonasson, Icelandic director of Sugarcubes videos, wanted to make his feature film debut a violent gangster film set in Reykjavik. The more he planned, the sillier the idea seemed. What gangsters? So he concocted this gangster farce: Axel and his sister on a merry chase through Iceland's ineffectual underworld--after their mother's stolen remote control. Poor Mom: how can she watch TV? A lot of the comedy is done straight-faced, so the jokes and sight gags and giggles take a while to kick in. Eventually it becomes evident that Jonasson is a talent to watch, as the comedy turns as funny as Britain's Goon Show and Richard Lester's 1960s films with the Beatles--it's an Icelandic Help! (GP) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

18

In China "18" is a dice game played with a bowl. Ordinarily, the highest score is 18, but in Taiwan the rules have changed, and the highest score is now 12. The game becomes a metaphor for the cultural changes that have happened in the years since the Kuomintang moved to the island. Director Ho P'ing's tale begins with a man driving his bitchy wife and their whining daughter through a small fishing village. They stop for a beer, and the man joins a game of 18. Soon he's involved with life in the village, which becomes increasingly strange. 18 is one of the more mysterious films to come from Taiwan, catching one up in the narrative even as the details of life in the village become more and more bizarre. It's a portrait of life in Taiwan seen through the eyes of a man who's looking for an identity. (DO) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

Killing Grandpa

See listing under Saturday, October 16. (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Puzzle of a Downfall Child

Very much a film of its period (1970), when Alain Resnais' subjective and lyrical editing patterns were at the height of their influence, this is the first feature of former fashion photographer Jerry Schatzberg. It deals with the memories and imaginings of a fashion model (Faye Dunaway) who's in a beach cottage attempting to recover from a nervous breakdown, and shares the fragmented, mosaic form as well as some of the melancholia of the 1968 Petulia--though, if memory serves, not much of its saving humor. I didn't warm to this film, but given the quality of some of Schatzberg's subsequent work, especially Scarecrow and Reunion, and the claims made for this picture by Michel Ciment, Schatzberg's biggest champion, it may deserve a second look. The script is by Five Easy Pieces's Adrien Joyce, writing under the pseudonym Carol Eastman; the secondary cast includes Barry Primus, Viveca Lindfors, Barry Morse, and Roy Scheider. (JR) (Pipers Alley, 7:30)

Treasure Island

The story of Treasure Island is very much a part of the Asian film tradition: a naive young man from the country comes to the city looking for his fortune, only to find corruption and horror. Yet director Chen Kuo-fa's approach is fresh and full of energy, and he has an eye for the telling detail. Fong walks into a coffee shop to get out of the rain. He sees the beautiful Miss Tan and is attracted to her. She leaves behind her diary, which he reads before trying to return it, discovering that she's the mistress of Chao, a financier who's tied to the Chinese mafia. All three are drawn into a whirlpool of violence and passion, dragging along everyone around them. Taipei is a major character in the film: wet streets flow with neon, sinister shadows fill back alleys, and slabs of dark and light cut across private rooms in discos. The inevitable explosion illuminates everything. The title comes from the phrase used to describe Taiwan in the early days of its prosperity, when Taipei was becoming a major Asian city and a sprawling urban jungle. (DO) (Music Box, 8:30)

Just a Matter of Duty

Thomas Mitscherlich's German feature concerns the aftermath of an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolf Hider. (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

Nostradamus Kid

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

Midnight Edition

Howard Libov's chilling debut film is adapted from Charles Postell's autobiography, Escape of My Dead Men. Set in a rural Georgia community, the film stars Will Patton as Jack Travers, a talented reporter whose reconciliation with his estranged wife (Clare Wren) and young daughter (Nancy Moore Atchinson) is complicated by his obsession with a local story. Travers secures a series of interviews with a detached, frightening, 19-year-old death-row inmate (Michael DeLuise) who inexplicably slaughtered an entire family. Travers's nonjudgmental, sympathetic series on the killer and his public criticism of the police result in his being ostracized by the community, his editor, and his colleagues, which places additional strain on his fragile marriage. Cinematographer Alik Sakharov has a keen eye for the eerie, expressive Georgia locations, which he uses to convey discord and mounting tension. But, the quality of the acting fluctuates wildly, and the editing is uncertain in the last reels: a climactic shoot-out begins in daylight and after a simple cut it's nightfall. The biggest problem is that Libov seems unsure what kind of film he's making. Its dreamy, fractured editing makes it play like a Marienbad mystery, but its subject evokes In Cold Blood or The Silence of the Lambs. The blurring of moral reason, the transference between killer and reporter (made overt in a dream sequence), and Travers's unwitting complicity in the killer's escape should make a highly provocative work, but Libov doesn't have the focus to pun it off. (PZM) (Pipers Alley, 9:30)

Young Werther

See listing under Friday, October 15. (Pipers Alley, 9:30)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 18

Killing Grandpa

See listing under Saturday, October 16. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

18

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Journey of the Lion

Fritz Bauman's German documentary about a young Jamaican man, Brother Howie, who travels to Ghana in search of his roots; this is Bauman's second documentary about this man. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Shorts Program #5

Ray Kilby's Resurrection, Stephen L. Williams's A Variation in the Key 2 Life, Anne Pratten's Terra Nullius, Bill Morrison's The Death Train, Gordon Thomas's Fixit, and Sarah Jacobson's I Was a Teenage Serial Killer. (Music Box, 5:00)

*The Women From the Lake of Scented Souls

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

White Marriage

Few women direct films in Poland today, which makes this one, by Magdalena Lazarkiewicz, a rarity, especially given that it's a story of sexual hysteria that attempts to reflect on women's roles past and present. The drawback is that Lazarkiewicz grafts her intriguing concept of fantasy time travel by two teenage girls onto an often ugly sex farce, possibly because this is currently Poland's most commercially viable genre. Late one night in a country manor house Bianca and Paulina are giggling their way through a sex-education videotape when they're whisked into an earlier century to experience the lives of two young women identical to themselves in the very same house. Paulina is wildly promiscuous, while her cousin Bianca, who's engaged to be married, has a pathological fear of sex. The elements of a tragedy are soon in place. White Marriage demonstrates considerable talent and imagination, but it's regrettably uneven. (Scharres) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

Vincent, Francois, Paul and the Others

Four friends help each other through the middle-age blahs in Claude Sautet's tired exercise in Gallic humanism (1974). In Numero deux Jean-Luc Godard holds this film up as the epitome of bourgeois realism. He may be right. Michel Piccoli and Yves Montand star; with Gerard Depardieu. and Stephane Audran. (DK) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

*The Man by the Shore

Raoul Peck's film charts the violence and turbulence of the Duvalier era in his native Haiti as seen through the eyes of Sarah (Jennifer Zubar), an eight-year-old girl. It operates on two levels: unfolding the world of a bright, curious child at an age when virtually all the doings of adults are still bottomless mysteries, and presenting the ugly realities of the period with the unambiguous morality of a fairy tale. The story's edge comes from the fact that it's based in part on Peck's childhood memories of the horrors his own family witnessed. Handsomely shot, the film stresses the visual details of 1950s Haiti, filtered through Sarah's memory with love but not nostalgia, from the dusty streets and shuttered houses to the sinister emptiness of the beaches. Veteran actress Mireille Metellus give an especially fine performance as Sarah's strong-willed grandmother. (Scharres) (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Francois Truffaut, Stolen Portraits

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Soft Top Hard Shoulder

This not quite daft but slightly pixilated British road movie--which follows a starcrossed couple with overlapping and contradictory concerns who meet on their individual journeys--charmingly comments on post-Thatcher tribulations. Director Stefan Schwartz--a generation younger than Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, to whom he acknowledges indebtedness--also gives a nod to the lighter days of Ealing comedies. Soft Top Hard Shoulder (all puns intended) could best be termed a social/romantic comedy. The bittersweetness throughout is underscored by a subtle critique of class and gender assumptions, and the ending, which is painstakingly earned through the film's loose narrative, can best be described by Hegel's neglected axiom "Truth requires another." (NF) (Music Box, 7:15)

Just a Matter of Duty

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

Sonatine

The surging popularity of Asian gangster films will make this Japanese feature de rigueur viewing for those who wish to keep up with the genre. But don't expect John Woo-like intensity or Hong Kong-style pyrotechnics. Takeshi Kitano's measured work weighs in on the side of austerity until the very end, when it finally delivers some action and extended gunplay. The plot, about a gang that goes on retreat to northern Japan prior to a major engagement with another gang, is somewhat inconsequential, since the film is more about the mechanics of hierarchy in all its configurations within the group, played out on a stark sandy beach. There's something fascinating about this flat and tensionless take on the gangster film, as long as you're prepared to wait for the payoff. (Scharres) (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

Remote Control

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

Travolta and Me

See listing under Saturday, October 16. (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

Gito, the Ungrateful

Leonce Ngabo's comedy, the first 35-millimeter feature from the African republic of Burundi, recounts the misfortunes of a young man returning to Burundi from Paris and encountering local hostility and romantic trouble; after he reanimates his relationship with a childhood sweetheart, his former Paris girlfriend shows up. (Music Box, 9:15)

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19

Gito, the Ungrateful

See listing under Monday, October 18. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Lara: My Life With Boris Pasternak

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Soft Top Hard Shoulder

See listing under Monday, October 18. (Pipers Alley, 5: 00)

Video Shorts Program

Narrative, experimental, and animated videos about phone sex, house hunting, love, AIDS, and bumblebees. (Music Box, 5:00)

Midnight Edition

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

Shimmer

Written by John O'Keefe and based on his autobiographical performance piece of the same name, this is a lyrical updating of the "boys' reform school" genre--an oedipal cry arising from an impressionistic Iowa landscape circa 1950, complete with fireflies at twilight and flashlight beams dueling in a dark cornfield as two boys attempt to escape. Director John Hanson brings a studied, cinematic rigor to the text, and his mise-en-scene is informed by a poetic psychology reminiscent of Bertolucci (Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man, Luna) and Kazan (East of Eden). The textures and tableaux of the abuse scenes, some encased in gothic stillness, are particularly arresting. Marcus Klemp and Elijah Shepard bring an unguarded authenticity to their roles as the young protagonists. (NF) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

A Wall of Silence

Lita Stantic's Argentinean feature about a woman trying to rebuild her life with a new husband and her daughter from her first marriage. She and her daughter are forced to confront what happened under Argentina's military dictatorship when an old friend begins to make a film-directed by an Englishwoman (Vanessa Redgrave)--inspired by the woman's life. (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

Scarecrow

Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow, which 20 years ago captured the Palme d'Or at Cannes, is definitely worth another look. Vilmos Zsigmond's time-arresting, space-freeing camera work really doesn't make it to video, and Al Pacino and Gene Hackman turned in a couple of truly bravura performances as a wistful child-man sailor returned from the sea and a distrustful, angry loner back from the slammer. Yet the script sports so many then-popular hooks--Easy Rider road movie, Midnight Cowboy male-bonding-losers movie, behavioral study in contrasting life-styles--it positively bristles, and all of this is billboarded so clearly the characters might as well have signs tatooed on their foreheads. Still, Schatzberg's direction is generally skittish and intense enough to successfully subvert the moral steamroller, and nothing can take away from the moment when Hackman, standing at a train-ticket window, pries open the heel of his dilapidated boot, extracts a $ 10 bill to pay the fare, and then repeatedly thwacks the boot against the counter, a gesture of mixed anger, frustration, impudence, and revolt. (RS) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

Meet Robert Greenberg: The Computer-Generated Special Effects Pioneer and Best TV Commercials

A two-part program. Part one is a lecture by special-effects and "digital imaging" specialist Robert Greenberg, who has worked on such films as The Purple Rose of Cairo, Ghostbusters, and Last Action Hero. Part two is an international compilation of TV commercials and a presentation of the award for the best 1993 entry--which in past years has often been the festival's most popular event. (Music Box, 7:00)

Video Blues

Arpad Sopsits's Hungarian feature about brothers living in Paris and Budapest who correspond through videos about various family intrigues. (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

Bolero Lady

Marilda Vera's feature from Venezuela about the middle-aged wife of a prominent politician encountering an old lover while investigating the death of her son due to a cocaine overdose. (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

Miroslava

A Mexican feature by Alejandro Pelayo about a depressed actress, a Czech emigre who recalls her life while writing a letter to her brother and preparing to kill herself (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

The November Men

This shoot-the-president drama is a nervously made movie-in-a-movie-in-a-movie, an independent effort produced and directed by Paul Williams. The film is ripe with paranoia and parody, but its air of tension may be just an obnoxious offshoot of its high-strung director's personality, not a credit to his skill in the political-thriller genre. Williams plays an independent director trying to shoot a movie about someone trying to shoot President Bush; by the end the movie's technical adviser--an embittered ex-marine--is taking aim at Bush's successor. Williams, who directed The Revolutionary in 1970, begins with former radical Tom Hayden lecturing on the legacy of the assassinations of King and the Kennedys. Tracking Bush on a TV newscast through the scope of a high-powered rifle, Williams's character wonders why no left-wing assassins have popped any Republican presidents, and later starts casting a no-budget movie with nonactors, playing people who might be mad enough to off Bush for real. The most intriguing scenes were shot at actual presidential photo ops, where Williams displayed a reckless nerve. As Bush steps off Air Force One in the background, Williams--wearing a White House press pass--loudly lectures on camera about past assassination attempts on Ford and Reagan. But his juvenile thrill at getting onto the floor of the 1992 Republican National Convention distracts from his fleeting luck at building suspense. (Stamets) (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

*The Man by the Shore See listing under Monday, October 18. (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

Sex Is...

A feature-length talking-heads documentary with a difference, for here the heads are gay men talking about their favorite sexual practices, illustrated by newsreel-type footage. Straights may find the part about the liberating aspects of sadomasochism a bit hard to take (especially the footage), but the film forthrightly presents a fascinating cross section of gay sexuality and is eye-opening in more ways than one. The specter of AIDS hangs over everything, of course, and director Mark Huestis's on-screen revelation that he's HIV-positive gives the film an intensity it might otherwise lack. The high point of the film (or low point, depending on your perspective) comes when the director, presumably interviewing himself, discusses his morning masturbation rituals. This is not a documentary you can wait to see on PBS. (PB) (Music Box, 9:15)

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 20

Russian Pizza Blues

Seductive in a quirky way, Russian Pizza Blues, a Danish film by Michael Wikke and Steen Rasmussen, is a modern-day fairy tale set in the empty streets of nighttime Copenhagen. Five characters meet one another on the airport bus to the city, then go their separate ways. The film chronicles their fate over the following night, unhurriedly registering even the smallest episodes. The group is quite diverse: a Russian father-daughter pair lost on the way to New York, a stewardess about to get married, a country boy in search of his brother, and a languid bridge attendant. Despite their different backgrounds, they all have a dream that's palpable yet seemingly out of reach. Not unexpectedly, as the fairy-tale tone of the film intensifies, minor miracles happen. This is probably one of the slowest-moving films ever produced, but what it lacks in action it more than compensates for in sharp observations and structural rigor. For those who revel in nuances, this offbeat tale is bound to be a pleasant antidote to the unsettling complexities of contemporary civilization. (ZB) (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Journey of the Lion

See listing under Monday, October 18. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Shimmer

See listing under Tuesday, October 19. (Music Box, 5:00)

Bolero Lady

See listing under Tuesday, October 19. (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

*Helas pour moi

Jean-Luc Godard's most spiritual film to date is also his most opaque; if you're looking for a paraphrasable plot, don't come near this. But the beauty of his work--Dolby sound and framed image, all recorded in rural Switzerland--is often breathtaking, and I'd much rather hear Godard talking to himself than Spielberg speaking to half the planet. Informed sources suggest that the poems and reflections of Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) and the Greek myth about Zeus impersonating and cuckolding Amphytrion--both having to do with cosmic injustice and the relationship between love and war--are two of his principal points of reference. (Gerard Depardieu, who arrives In a village in a raincoat carrying the London Observer, seems to figure as both god and cuckold in this context.) I also spotted references to Hitchcock's I Confess and Straub-Huillet's From the Cloud to the Resistance and Antigone. But for all the hermetic poetry and esoteric mysticism, this film also has concrete things to say about the bombing of Baghdad and the slaughter in Bosnia. The discursive style and manner is a logical development of the religious conceits of Hail Mary, the noirish moods of Detective, the formal polyphony of King Lear, the mosaic structure of Soigne ta droite, and the sociology and nature worship of Nouvelle vague. We still haven't seen Godard's hour-long Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991) in Chicago, but this will do just fine until it comes. (JR) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

The Young Girls Turn 25

This is Agnes Varda's follow-up to her moving and beautiful Jacquot, about the childhood of her late husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy. The Young Girls Turn 25 is a straight documentary rather than a fictionalized re-creation, concentrating on what I consider Demy's most underrated and neglected picture--his rapturous American-style musical of 1966, The Young Girls of Rochefort, which featured Gene Kelly, George Chakiris, and Grover Dale along with an impressive French cast--Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli--and the greatest of Michel Legrand's scores to date. This hour-long documentary, which juxtaposes 1966 footage of Rochefort with 1992 footage of the same location, sounds like a rare treat. (JR) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

Mado

Claude Sautet continues the investigation of middle-aged anxiety that he began in Vincent, Paul, Francois and the Others, but the results this time are considerably more moving and intelligent. Michel Piccoli, a liberal-minded businessman, and Ottavia Piccolo, a factory girl who supplements her income by working as a prostitute, drift through a loosely structured pattern of moral and ethical relationships, ending up as very different people. Sautet's track-and-zoom style, so close to being ugly, makes a perfect accompaniment to his rambling plot, picking insights out of apparent chaos (1976). (DK) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

A fascinating if irritating German documentary by Ray Muller about the remarkable filmmaker whose work provided Nazi Germany with its greatest propaganda. Clearly designed to accompany Riefenstahl's recently published autobiography, this is more often self-portrait than portrait; like Hitler in Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, she's presented as a fully formed deity without family background or ideology, as merely someone who worships beauty and strength. Admittedly, compared to all the Nazi industrialists who went unpunished, she has suffered disproportionately for her Nazi associations, and she deserves full recognition as an extraordinary woman; now in her early 90s, she's a courageous deep-sea diver, as the film shows. But at 182 minutes the film has only a few skeptical asides, and it shirks certain basic historical facts allowing her, for instance, to insist that Triumph of the Will was a "straight" documentary without even alluding to all the carefully crafted studio retakes. Toward the end, when Muller asks her to define a fascist aesthetic and she replies she doesn't even know what that term means, she's dearly articulating the happy innocence of much of her audience. The same applause that led to the exaltation of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse--a documentary implying that one filmmaker of "genius" cancels out any number of faceless, innocent corpses could dearly place her in the same ahistorical pantheon as Coppola. John Simon's gushing, unscholarly review of Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir in the New York Times Book Review, a literary equivalent to Reagan's Bitburg speech, condudes that Riefenstahl "may have compromised her humanity. But her artistic integrity, never." If you agree with Simon that artistic integrity has nothing to do with humanity, this is the movie you've been waiting for. (JR) (Music Box, 7:00)

Treasure Island

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

*Nouvelle vague

Probably Jean-Luc Godard's greatest film since he moved back to his native Switzerland in 1976, this awesome 1990 feature unfolds mainly on a lush, luxurious estate, reportedly just across the lake from where Godard himself grew up in bourgeois comfort. The mistress of the villa is Contessa Torlanto-Favrini (Domiziana Giordano), the same name as that of Ava Gardner's character in The Barefoot Contessa, and Alain Delon plays her lover or successive lovers--whether he's twins or two sides (lethargic/slick) of the same person is one of the film's many mysteries, comparable to the shifting roles played by Gerard Depardieu in Godard's more recent Helas pour moi (see above review). In many ways this supremely beautiful and elegiac poem has an itinerary rather than a plot: the dialogue consists mainly of literary quotations (from Dante to Faulkner), and the fluid camera movements traverse servants as well as trees, industrialists as well as windows; all are permitted some eloquence. One friend has rightly compared the lyrical and emotional flow to that of a 19th-century French opera--it's amazing how much raw feeling arises from an oppressed maid reciting Schiller; as Gilberto Perez has written, "We are confronted with a contradiction between stirring beauty and the ugly privilege enabling that beauty." Brisk business deals coexist with messy personal lives, and both rub shoulders with watchful nature; the tragic rhythms and aching splendors Godard derives from these abstract encounters, recalling at times the sadness of his 1963 Contempt, feel like a meditation on the end of the world. This came out on video a few months ago and is available at a few outlets; but if you haven't seen it on a big screen, you haven't seen it. (JR) (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

Beck

This solid murder mystery from Holland provides vivid testimony that old-fashioned filmmaking is alive and well. From beginning to end Jacob Bijl's Beck is true to its roots, forgoing stylistic glitter in favor of meticulous, if unadorned, story telling. Martin Beck is a police investigator in Antwerp who has an intuitive understanding of right and wrong and an uncanny ability to put together unconnected details. The plot starts appropriately with a dead body and moves along step-by-step, slowly enlarging the circle of potential suspects, among them a young waitress, a porn photographer, and a couple of bank robbers on the run. There's no sense of rush; the camera lingers contentedly on closeup facts, revealing personalities and thickening the suspenseful atmosphere. The entire film has only a few surprising twists, but their resonance is all the more powerful. In the end the mystery's solved and the culprit's punished. If there's anything unusual about the film's message, it's that not all criminals are equally bad and not all cops equally worth our admiration. (ZB) (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

A Wall of Silence

See listing under Tuesday, October 19. (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

What About Me

An American independent feature written and directed by Rachel Amodeo, who also stars as a woman who finds herself homeless on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The cast also includes Richard Edson, Nick Zedd, Richard Hell, poet Gregory Corso, and the late Johnny Thunders. (Pipers Alley, 9:30)

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21

White Marriage

See listing under Monday, October 18. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Beck

See listing under Wednesday, October 20. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

What About Me

See listing under Wednesday, October 20. (Pipers Alley, 5:00)

Lara: My Life With Boris Pasternak

See listing under Sunday, October 17. (Music Box, 5:00)

Sonatine

See listing under Monday, October 18. (Pipers Alley, 5:15)

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

See listing under Wednesday, October 20. (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

The November Men

See listing under Tuesday, October 19. (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

Reunion

It's a pity that the most recent Jerry Schatzberg picture, one of his very best, had to wait two years, until 1991, for its Chicago premiere. Adapted by Harold Pinter from a novel by Fred Uhlman and shot in 'Scope by Bruno De Keyzer, this French-English-West German production is a story about a Jewish lawyer in New York (Jason Robards) returning to Stuttgart, Germany, after a 55-year absence to discover what happened during the early 30s to his best friend (Samuel West)--an ambassador's son who didn't share the racism of his aristocratic family. Most of the story is told in flashback (Christien Anholt plays the hero as a youth), and much of what's impressive about its unfolding is the meticulous recreation of Germany during the rise of Nazism (the superb production design is by the great Alexandre Trauner, who appears in a cameo in a warehouse office), as well as a sensitive (and perhaps timely) depiction of how the gradual changes in national thinking were reflected in everyday life. It's a story that's been told before, but seldom with such feeling for detail and nuance; one has to adjust to the curious mix between English dialogue and street signs in German, but the performances--including those by Francoise Fabian, Maureen Kerwin, Barbara Jefford, and Bert Parnaby in small parts--are impeccable. (JR) (Pipers Alley, 7:00)

Shorts Program #2

Tim Southam's Dober Man, Benoit Cohen's Lola Posse, Bruno De Almeida's The Debt, Christina Andreef's Excursion to the Bridge of Friendship, Jesse Peretz's Six Hours From Cleveland, Justin Chadwick's Walking the Line, Andrew Lancaster's Palace Cafe, Monica Pellizzari's Just Desserts, Juan de Llaca's Me voy a escapar, and Nicole Mitchell's Spring Ball. (Music Box, 7:00)

Russian Pizza Blues

See listing under Wednesday, October 20. (Pipers Alley, 7:15)

The Young Girls Turn 25

See listing under Wednesday, October 20. (Pipers Alley, 9:00)

A Simple Story

Claude Sautet (Mado) continues to explore the gray emotions of middle age. For his characters, ideals have crumbled and dreams have died, but life goes on--on a scale more provisionary but somehow more profound. Romy Schneider, an actress who has improved with age, plays a divorced woman moving uneasily between a lover and her ex-husband. Sautet excels in group portraits: with her friends and acquaintances filled in around her, Schneider stands at the center of a full and complex existence, where every choice has a consequence and every emotion an echo. Conventional in style and subject, the film succeeds through scrupulous observation, breadth of vision, and discreet compassion. With Claude Brasseur, Arlette Bonnard, and Bruno Cremer (1978). (DK) (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

Shorts Program #6

Mick Connolly's Opportunity Knocks, Sophie Jackson's Swing Your Partner, Clement Virgo's Save My Lost Nigga' Soul, Paul Wiesepape's A Five-Minute Film, Stephen Brown's Breathing, Rod Main's Nice People, and Michael P. O'Hara's Donuts, People and Their Dreams. (Pipers Alley, 9:15)

Sex Is...

See listing under Tuesday, October 19. (Music Box, 9:15)

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